Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Female fruit flies can be 'too attractive' to males, scientists show

Date:
December 14, 2009
Source:
University of California - Santa Barbara
Summary:
Females can be too attractive to the opposite sex ---- too attractive for their own good ---- say biologists. They found that, among fruit flies, too much male attention directed toward attractive females leads to smaller families and, ultimately, to a reduced rate of population-wide adaptive evolution.

These are fruit flies courting.
Credit: William Rice, UCSB

Females can be too attractive to the opposite sex -- too attractive for their own good -- say biologists at UC Santa Barbara. They found that, among fruit flies, too much male attention directed toward attractive females leads to smaller families and, ultimately, to a reduced rate of population-wide adaptive evolution.

In an article published in the December 8 issue of Public Library of Science Biology, the authors described their experiments on the sex lives of fruit flies.

"Can females be too good looking?" asks William Rice, biology professor at UCSB. "Can there be disadvantages to being attractive? The answer is yes: If you are too attractive, you get too much male attention, and that interferes with your ability to function biologically."

The authors explain that the term "good looking," among fruit flies, refers to something, like a large body. From the perspective of a male fly, a desirable mate is a female that is larger and can therefore produce more offspring.

"These larger females are disproportionately courted and harassed by males attempting to obtain matings," said Tristan A. F. Long, the study's first author. "When these males are 'choosy' with their courtship, there may be negative consequences to the species' ability to adaptively evolve."

According to the scientists, too much mating is harmful to the females because seminal fluid from the male has toxic side effects. Too much courtship can also hinder the female's ability to forage effectively.

"When they court the females, the males sing to them; they do this by vibrating their wings," said Rice. "They dance and sing at the same time. This might sound romantic, and it would be if it only happened once. But males are doing it all the time. This courtship is unrelenting -- like mosquitoes on a warm summer night -- as the male fruit flies try to persuade females to mate. The males are so persistent that they get them to mate almost every day."

In many species, females are frequently subject to intense courtship "harassment" from males attempting to obtain additional matings, according to the researchers. These coercive activities can result in attractive females becoming less fit to reproduce -- a factor that has a major effect on the entire population.

"We found that when harmful courtship behaviors were directed predominantly toward larger females of greater fecundity potential -- and away from smaller females, of lesser fecundity potential -- this resulted in an overall reduction in the variation of lifetime reproductive success of females in the population," said Long.

The male-mediated, persistent courtship bias can have important consequences for the ability of a population to adaptively change over time. If, for example, a female acquires a mutation that increases metabolic efficiency, allowing her to grow larger, and produce more offspring over her lifetime, this mutation should rapidly spread through the population. However, if the males get in the way of the biological success of these more attractive females, the mutation won't spread through the population as well as it might if males courted females indiscriminately.

The experiments clearly showed that the evolutionary adaptation of fruit flies is hindered by this mating situation. "This change in the distribution of fitness represents a previously unappreciated aspect of sexual selection -- one with important implications for the ability of beneficial genetic variation to spread through the gene pool, and ultimately for a species' capacity to adaptively evolve," Long explained.

Long was a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) postdoctoral fellow at UCSB at the time that he carried out the experiments designed with Rice. Long is currently a postdoctoral fellow with the University of Toronto in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. The other authors are Alison Pischedda, a graduate student, and Andrew D. Stewart, a postdoctoral fellow, both of UCSB.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Santa Barbara. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of California - Santa Barbara. "Female fruit flies can be 'too attractive' to males, scientists show." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 December 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091208132736.htm>.
University of California - Santa Barbara. (2009, December 14). Female fruit flies can be 'too attractive' to males, scientists show. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091208132736.htm
University of California - Santa Barbara. "Female fruit flies can be 'too attractive' to males, scientists show." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091208132736.htm (accessed September 2, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Sharks Off the Menu and on the Tourist Trail in Palau

Sharks Off the Menu and on the Tourist Trail in Palau

AFP (Sep. 2, 2014) — Tourists in Palau clamour to dive with sharks thanks to a pioneering conservation initiative -- as the island nation plans to completely ban commercial fishing in its vast ocean territory. 01:15 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) — A new study suggests 100 percent of adult humans (those over 18 years of age) have Demodex mites living in their faces. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Coffee Then Napping: The (New) Key To Alertness

Coffee Then Napping: The (New) Key To Alertness

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) — Researchers say having a cup of coffee then taking a nap is more effective than a nap or coffee alone. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Drug Could Reduce Cardiovascular Deaths

New Drug Could Reduce Cardiovascular Deaths

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) — The new drug from Novartis could reduce cardiovascular deaths by 20 percent compared to other similar drugs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins